Writing tips – Settings, Openings & Closings

Although it may seem out of order, you should first decide on the setting of your project, then write a closing transition.  After you have a setting, a solid rough draft of your monologue, and a closing, THEN hunt for a strong opening and introduction.  Check out Overview of a YC Project for a reminder about how all the parts of your project will fit together.

 setting for your introduction:
You’ll need to decide where and why is your character giving this talk. Who is your audience? How old is your character in the “now” of your setting?
Here are some settings chosen by previous students:
A fashion designer is welcoming a group of new students to her studio.
A pilot is being interviewed by a reporter about her wartime accomplishments.
An empress chats with her maid as they’re packing to be sent into exile.
A Roman heroine is seated next to a courtyard fountain, speaking to her grandchildren about the daring deeds of her youth.
A composer is speaking to guests at a party celebrating the 70th anniversary of her first performance.
A pirate is in the royal court, begging forgiveness for her son from Queen Elizabeth.
A spy is being de-briefed by her CIA superiors after the war.
A former slave is sharing tea with an old friend.
A WWII paratrooper is approached by a curious stranger while waiting to board a plane.
An inventor is showing his laboratory to a group of visitors before he gives a demonstration of his experiments.

The Closing:
The closing is a brief statement that wraps up your monologue before you ask the audience for questions.  The best closings remind us why your character should be remembered in history.  Some ideas for this wrap up:
“I hope one day I will be remembered not just for _______ but also for ________.”
“I’m glad that I was able to do ______.”
“My next goal is to ___________.”
“For you young scientists just starting in chemistry, I believe the most important next step in research should be ______.”
“Before I die, I’d like to ____________.”
“I believe that someday we’ll be able to create a wireless communication system by which we’ll be able to transmit voice and written documents across the globe. The possibilities for our future are limitless.”

Here’s how some previous students asked the audience if they had any questions:
“It’s almost time for school, children.  Before you go, do you have any questions for your materfamilias, your grandmother?”
“Well, that’s my flight they’re announcing.  Do you have any questions for me before I board?”
“Is there anything else I can tell your majesty that would convince you to free my son?”

“I hear the children coming down the path.  If you have any questions please ask them before that noisy crowd arrives!”

The Opening:
This is your big chance to make the audience sit up and think, “WOW! I want to hear more!”

What NOT to do: Try to avoid starting out out by saying, “”My name is ____.  I was born in the year _____.”  There are so many more exciting ways to grab your audience’s attention!

Finding an opening:   One way to create an opening for your performance is to think of the MOST important fact you want the audience to know about your character.  Then think of a memory connected to that fact, and use the memory as your opening.  For example, if the most important fact is that you won an Olympic medal, you could open with this memory about winning the medal, “I remember when I won the silver medal at the Olympics and the gold medal winner carried me up to the award podium.”  Doesn’t that make you want to hear more about her story?!

Fire Drill Rule:  It’s great if you can plan the opening of your monologue to begin by immediately touching on some really gripping reason why your character should be remembered in history.  Imagine if your audience only got to hear the first 30 seconds of your program before a fire alarm sounded and everyone had to leave the building.  In that first 30 seconds, can you give the audience enough info to know who you were, when you lived, and/or why you were important in history?   For example, right at the outset you could mention the controversy over the safety features of the ship (Titanic) you designed.  Or, one of the first things you say could be why you chose the name Silent Spring for your book.

More thoughts on openings: You may be tempted to start your monologue as if you are talking to yourself, and then suddenly pretend to notice that there’s an audience in the room.   Instead, switch the order so that the first thing you say is, “Oh hello, you must be the (interviewer? students? whatever fits…),” and THEN go back to the talking to yourself section: “Oh, black beads on a black dress – black on black; that’s fabulous,” and include the audience in your evaluation of the dress: “what do you thi.  This approach works well and can feel less “fakey” than pretending that you don’t notice the large group of people in the room!

Some openings used by previous YC students (some are a little shortened for space, but you’ll get the idea):

  • “I’ve been called many things during my lifetime:  fashionable and regal, vulgar and outspoken, heroic and a trail blazer, optimistic and vivacious, bright and compassionate, but above all……Unsinkable!”
  • “I can still remember the day Lucretia killed herself.”
  • I remember when I first decided to fly.  My flight instructor decided to take me up in the air and see if I had any guts.  He strapped me in and Whoosh! he put that plane through every aerial maneuver he could think of: loops, spins, and nose dives.  “Do you still want to learn how to fly?” he asked when we landed, expecting to have wrung me out good.  “Hell yes!” I replied.
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    S. as Julius Caesar

    S. as Julius Caesar